Today is International Mountain Day. It’s a day to celebrate what is special about mountain people and the places they live in – and which millions of us visit.
It is a special day for me, as my professional life has focused particularly on mountain areas and, in 2002, the International Year of Mountains, I was involved in drafting the resolution in the UN General Assembly which led to the declaration of International Mountain Day every 11th of December since then.
This year, I had the honour of being asked to advise Guinness World Records about some of the superlatives of mountain areas – such as the highest mountain (which depends on where you measure from), the longest mountain range (which depends on whether you only look on land or under the sea) and the fastest rising mountain (Nanga Parbat in Pakistan). You can find the answers in the new book, ready in time for Christmas, or look online. The Centre for Mountain Studies is now recognised as a partner of Guinness World Records!
Closer to home, there is a meeting at Inverness College UHI today to explore the partnership between the University of the Highlands and Islands and the Wester Ross Biosphere. This is one of 701 biosphere reserves in 124 countries designated by UNESCO – over half are in mountain areas. Biosphere reserves are designated because the people who live in them want to have international recognition for their special places, with a strong identity, and to work together to find ways to move towards sustainable development at the regional scale.
Each biosphere reserve should have a partnership with its local university, providing opportunities for university staff and students to undertake research which is relevant for the people living in the reserve and the environment they live in. The University of the Highlands and Islands is already doing a range of research and is involved in various projects in Wester Ross Biosphere:
The Rivers and Lochs Institute at Inverness College UHI is working on aquatic biodiversity, particularly of fish species such as Atlantic Salmon, Brown Trout and Arctic Char
A PhD student at the Centre for History is researching the history of the North Coast 500, which passes through the Wester Ross Biosphere
Today, we hope to identify more opportunities that will contribute to the implementation of the Wester Ross Biosphere’s five-year strategic plan and its aim of bringing people together to work towards the sustainable development of this special area – for today’s and future generations.
Professor Martin Price, Director of the Centre for Mountain Studies at Perth College UHI and Chairholder, UNESCO Chair in Sustainable Mountain Development
Ahead of St. Andrews Day on 30 November, Professor Donna Heddle, Director of the University of the Highlands and Islands Institute for Northern Studies gives us the lowdown on Scotland’s patron saint.
Who was he?
The name Andrew is Greek meaning “manly” and was popular across the Near East. The New Testament (Luke 6: 14) tells us that Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter. He was born in the village of Bethsaida and, along with his brother, was a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, giving rise to the tradition that Jesus called them as disciples by saying that he would make them “fishers of men” (Matt 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20).
Andrew, the first called, was clearly an elder stateman among the apostles – he appears on many important occasions such as the Last Supper. For example and very fittingly, it is Andrew who tells Jesus about the boy with the loaves and fishes (John 6:8), and when Philip wanted to tell Jesus about certain Greeks searching for Him (John 12:20-22)., he consulted Andrew first.
St. Andrew’s cross
Andrew is believed to have been martyred by crucifixion at the city of Patras in Achaea, on the northern coast of the Peloponnese. Andrew is depicted as bound, not nailed, to the same kind of cross on which Jesus was crucified in early texts, such as the Acts of Andrew known to Gregory of Tours. The prevailing tradition today is that he was crucified, by his own request as not worthy of the same fate as Jesus, on an X-shaped cross, or “saltire” (crux decussata).
Where is he buried?
Andrew’s remains were kept in the first instance at the Basilica of St Andrew in Patras, Greece. Most of his remains were removed from Patras to Constantinople in circa 357 at the instigation of the Roman emperor Constantius II and placed in the Church of the Holy Apostles. From there, relics of Andrew travelled the world and you can find them now in the Duomo di Sant’Andrea, Amalfi, Italy; St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland; and the Church of St Andrew and St Albert, Warsaw, Poland. There are also numerous smaller reliquaries throughout the world.
Andrew in Scotland
Traditional sources tell us that a monk in Patras, St Regulus or Rule, had a dream in which he was told to take the relics of Andrew to the ends of the earth. St. Regulus set sail, taking with him a kneecap, an upper arm bone, three fingers and a tooth. He sailed west as far as he could and was shipwrecked on the coast of Fife where St Andrews was founded. In reality, it is likely that they came to Britain in 597 as part of the Augustine Mission, and then in 732 to Fife, by Bishop Acca of Hexham. The great church of St Andrews was erected on a site previously dedicated to St Regulus so that may be where the connection comes from.
Andrew becomes our patron saint
Andrew became our patron saint, sources such as Bower’s Scotichronicon tell us, in 832 AD when Óengus II (Angus mac Fergus) led an army of Picts and Scots into battle against the Angles led by Æthelstan near modern-day Athelstaneford in East Lothian. Óengus was very much outnumbered and on the back foot so the night before the battle he prayed to St Andrew, who was a very senior figure in Christian belief. and swore that he would make Andrew the patron saint of Scotland if he won the battle next day. It was said that, on the morning of the battle, white clouds formed a St Andrew’s cross or Saltire in the sky and this sign emboldened the Scottish forces to victory and Óengus duly credited the victory and gave the role of patron saint to Andrew. Our flag, which may well be the oldest national flag in the world, represents the white saltire against the blue sky – and so should never be navy blue! Many flags throughout history contain the St Andrew’s cross – the Confederate flag and that of Jamaica, for example.
Anything else to know?
Andrew is clearly a top class patron saint and in demand. He is the patron saint of several countries – Barbados, Romania, Russia, Scotland and Ukraine – and of several cities including many in Spain, Amalfi in Italy, Esgueira in Portugal, Luqa in Malta, Parañaque in the Philippines and of course Patras in Greece.
His brother Peter is considered the founder of the Church of Rome but Andrew is considered the founder of Church of Byzantium and is therefore the patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Concealed in a disused oil depot at Invergordon, a town and port in Easter Ross, is the Inchindown oil tanks. Between 1938 and 1941 provision for the bomb proof storage of furnace fuel oil for British warships was made with the excavation from the solid rock of the nearby Kinrive hill to create the Inchindown admiralty underground oil storage depot – a series of six underground tanks and access tunnels. The site was closed in 2002, decommissioned thereafter, and is now in private ownership.
In 2014 the remarkable sonic properties of the tanks attracted interest from acoustic engineering professor Trevor Cox, who fired a blank pistol and measured the reverberation as 1 minute and 52 seconds (112 seconds). Bettering the existing Guinness World Record previously held by the Hamilton Mausoleum by a gigantic 97 seconds for the longest reverberation in any man-made structure.
A reverberation is a familiar concept to those working with sound, not to be confused with the more commonly known concept of an echo. A reverb is in fact the result of overlapping multiple echoes as sound waves bounce back off the surfaces met.
Programme leader, Simon Bradley describes his motivation to include a visit to this site in a recent student residency.
Inspiring sound exploration
What really excites me about leading the MA Music and the Environment course is providing students with stimulating and thought-provoking environments as a central element of learning. The Highlands and Islands is rich in sources of inspiration that can be drawn upon from study of its environment, culture and historical context.
I was introduced to this unique local record holding site, Inchindown oil tanks, by a recent graduate of mine Liam Ross and was immediately intrigued. Liam is a local musician from Invergordon and had incorporated the sonic properties of the site in his final master project.
Our visit to the site had an immediately powerful impact on everyone involved; staff, students and our film-making tour guide. It was a perfect location to start this year’s academic journey and has furnished us with material for future projects, musical compositions and collaborations.
What follows is a collection of accounts from those that took part in the sonic material experiments and recordings.
Picture 1 (L-R) Stephen Bull, Liam Ross, Martin Gilligan, Peter Noble, Anthony Cowie, Simon Bradley
Sound mining at the world’s longest reverb
Anthony Cowie, MA Music and the Environment student Accessing the tanks is not for the claustrophobic or faint-of-hearted! Entrance is only by arrangement as health and safety briefing is essential. Given the prior contents of the tanks, it is necessary to come prepared and we were each wearing protective disposable overalls and sturdy boots to deal with the residue from the remnants of oil.
To gain entry to the interior of one of the tanks we had quite a journey. We walked the 365m length of the access tunnel before being presented with the next stage. Even before being fully inside the tank, the tunnels that lead from outside down to the entrance pipe already make for a ‘sonic miasma’ seldom experienced in everyday life – the slightest noise or disturbance echoing incessantly as one moves through the dark.
The only way into the tanks is via a trolley, on which prospective visitors lie flat, with their arms extended above the head in order to minimise the body width as the trolley (with are you are lying flat on) is pushed through an eighteen inch pipe which takes you through the wall of the tank.
It felt like we were being loaded and fired like human torpedoes through the wall. Once in the tank we were able to stand, and after my eyes became accustomed to the darkness, I could begin to get a sense of the vastness of the chamber of the tank.
Our filmmaking tour guide Simon, had brought along some blank rounds to fire in the tank, allowing us to experience the sound of the world record. It was still 112 seconds. The duration is unbelievable. We turned off our headtorches and extinguished the working lights and waited for the sound.
When the shot rang out, there was the initial fast attack of the noise, and roughly a third of a second later it could be heard rebounding off the far wall. There then followed a rolling wash of frequencies that seemed to fall overhead in wave after wave. Personally, I found the extent of what I was experiencing so intense that it elicited an equally physical experience. I could sense my balance shifting as I waited for the sound to die down and became unsteady on my feet. This was sound in its’ most transcendent form, and as we took a moment to gather our thoughts in the final silence the childlike glee in me shouted, ‘Again!’ I can’t wait to go back.”
Peter Noble, MA Music and the Environment lecturer I am based at the Alness campus which is four miles from the Inchindown tunnel. I am continually fascinated by the local landscape of where I live and work in the Highlands and Islands. To experience the entombment within this environment even for a short time was a very inspiring experience.
We recorded the sound experience. I later simulated the reverb of the tunnel space and used this to develop a song with two musicians based in other areas. I am looking forward to cultivating a unique collaborative networked performance using the results.
The group was accompanied by filmmaker Simon Riddell, who was moved to include a recording of the team singing in his new feature length documentary about this fascinating place.
Simon was taught to shoot film and embrace adventure by his father. He explains why he chose to include the Amazing Grace clip.
As soon as I heard the guys perform in the tank, I thought that the audio would be a very fitting way to close the documentary. The atmospherics of the tanks sound great! This song was close to dad’s heart and mine also. He was a preacher and I have dedicated the film to him.
See for yourself
Hosted by FLOW Photofest and the University of the Highland and Islands, Simon’s film debuts at an event hosted by Inverness College UHI on Wednesday 6 November 2019, 7pm. This will be an excellent opportunity to talk to the authors in a special questions and answers session.
Dr Euan Bowditch, a researcher at the Scottish School of Forestry at Inverness College UHI, considers the plight of the elm and highlights efforts to conserve, manage and restore populations of this iconic tree.
The elm. A tree synonymous with the Dutch elm disease and spoken about as if it has already faded into memory. Poor Dutch, forever tethered to one of the worse tree disease outbreaks in modern history and to this day remains a cautionary and sad tale for all that work with or appreciate trees.
As it happens, the Dutch are not the cause of elm disease – or even the origin – but were the first to identify the causal agent of Dutch elm disease in the 1920s, as several phytopathologists (those who study plant disease) pinpointed the fungus Graphium ulmi (Ophiostoma ulmi). A few miles further east of the Netherlands in the Himalayas, we find the origin of the disease, which travelled across the vast continental distances to Europe, all the while hybridising and adapting to new conditions and species.
Today, Dutch elm disease continues to travel, spreading into the heart of the Scottish Highlands and reaching more isolated populations nearly seventy years after the break out in the 1960s. In my experience, Dutch elm disease is often perceived as an absolute; an unrelenting disease that has vanquished the species and now remains dormant or waiting. The elm bark beetle (Scolytus scolytus), which carries the fungus, is dynamic and continues to hop across the landscape, driving deeper into remote areas of the Highlands. Equally, the elm tree is not a dormant or dead species, but alive; regenerating and even adapting in ways which are as of yet unknown.
Although wych elm (Ulmus glabra) is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List (the only tree species in Europe to be on the list), the species is widely spread, but in smaller numbers and fragmented. Healthy trees and populations persist and survive, maybe the focus on elm and Dutch elm disease has been overshadowed by the advent of such diseases as ash dieback, needle blight and sudden oak death (Phytopthora ramorum), which has devastated plantations of larch all over Scotland. Trees are under constant threat; not just to disease, but events of extreme weather such as storms and drought that will weaken the tree and, in conjunction with disease, are capable of knocking swathes of forests down like dominoes across landscapes on a continental scale.
Almost a century on from the identification of the disease, we are still learning, experimenting and looking for better ways forward to conserve, manage and restore elm populations. Yesterday, ‘The Last Ent of Affric’, a mature surviving elm tree in the famous Glen has been named Scotland’s Tree of the Year. Hidden away in a remote spot, it has avoided Dutch elm disease and is a sole survivor of the ancient woodland in which elm would have been a key species.
So, revival is happening culturally perhaps; but what about ecologically, genetically and even economically? Elm is a beautiful decorative wood, with diverse uses; valued for its strength and water resistance, and once used for ship-building. Now, most elm is used for furniture, with burr wood especially prized.
Currently, the Wooded Landscapes Research Group at Inverness College UHI is undertaking work in partnership with the Woodland Trust to set-up pilot refuges for healthy elm populations and running a scoping study on DNA extraction techniques on healthy and Dutch elm disease infected elms, with the aim to identify resistant traits by comparing differentiation of DNA markers. Our hope is to gain some insights into potential resistance of elm and propose ways of restoring the lost populations, which would in turn restore rare native woodland habitats and the associated species.
Trees are so deeply embedded with our culture and folklore that we can take them for granted. According to Norse mythology, for example, Elba was the first woman created – from the wood of an elm tree – by the gods. Next time you are wondering around a wooded area, road verge, fields or any green area, try and spot an elm; the ancestors of the Ents will be watching.
To mark Shetland Wool Week reaching its tenth birthday, and to celebrate the continued partnership of Shetland College UHI in this super event, we invited alumni and staff taking part to share some of their fun wool facts and favourite yarns.
Where better to start than with Faye Hackers, her energy and passion for the craft and the array of creative opportunities it provides is contagious. She is the programme leader at the university’s Contemporary Textiles degree and one of the committee members of this year’s internationally recognised wool week held annually on Shetland. The university’s courses equip students with the technical skills and the practical knowledge to produce innovative textiles, and the business skills to market them globally.
Wooly Info: Before working at the University, I was a knitwear designer predominantly based in Shanghai working for UK brands. You can still find my designs in a few UK high street stores today!
Some of my work (12 scarves) is currently on show at the Museum and Archives over Shetland wool week (see photo) and is up for Charity Auction, so please head along and bid to raise money for some great causes!
Fav Yarn: I can’t pick only one…Shetland’s Jamieson and Smith 2ply heritage undyed, all the beautiful natural colours of Shetland- cosy and weather resistant (a must in Shetland!). But, my overall favourite yarns to knit with are silks or merinos on a 8 or 10 gauge Vbed, the perfect quality of knit in my eye; great drape, not too fine, not too thick- perfect!
Roisin Alexandra McAtamney Textile Technician at the textile facilitation unit, Shetland College UHI and owner of R.A.M Knitwear. Teaching a workshop at Shetland Wool Week 2019
Wooly Info: You can turn almost any fibre into a yarn, then garment. During my studies on the Design for Textiles BA Hons at Heriot Watt university, our knitwear technician showed us a lovely knitted pullover. His wife had saved the fur from grooming their Alsatian to make it! Needless to say, it was kept wrapped up tight as the smell was rather pungent!
Fav yarn or textile: Did you know that there is a woman in Sardinia who dives underwater to collect fibers from an endangered clam and spins it into a yarn known as byssus, or sea silk, it’s one of the rarest and most coveted materials in the world! The secrets of this technique have been in her family for 24 generations and she is the last with this knowledge!
Helen Whitham Textile Technician at the textile facilitation unit, Shetland College UHI. Teaching the ‘machine knit a cushion Cover’ class at Shetland Wool Week 2019.
Wooly Info: Born and bred in Shetland I have had a keen interest in knitting my whole life. I first learned to knit at primary school, studied textile design and specialised in knitting at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design at the University of Dundee. I moved home to work for a local knitwear designer before taking up a job at Shetland College UHI where I now work as a technician and programmer on Shima Seiki knitting machines.
Fav yarn or textile: I love experimenting with hand tooled techniques on V-Bed and Domestic knitting machines, especially creating my own hand tooled lace patterns. I also enjoy playing with colour; the huge number of shades of yarn that Jamieson’s of Shetland spin allow countless options for combining and blending colours.
Dr Simon Clarke Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, Head of Creative and Cultural Industries Shetland College UHI
Wooly Info: In 1921 well preserved remains of a young woman were found from the Danish Bronze Age at Egtved, in South Jutland. The body and grave goods lay in an oak log coffin in waterlogged conditions that had allowed woven woollen textiles to survive. Danish society was scandalised by the outfit which included a string miniskirt and a theory that she was a southern European courtesan was quickly popularised without any real evidential basis. However, in 2015 isotope analysis of the woman’s bones and hair and of the wool in her textiles suggest that she was indeed an immigrant, probably from the Black Forest region of Germany. The honour of Danish womanhood preserved!
Egtved Girl’s grave, Denmark, 1370 BC. Credit: The National Museum of Denmark
Niela Nell Kalra University of the Highlands and Islands 2007 graduate, Contemporary Art and Textiles Degree Distinction and self employed knitwear designer.
Wooly Info: Despite having a successful little knitwear business, Nielanell, I can hardly even knit! My favourite textile activity is spinning and dyeing wool.
Image credit: Byre Cape by Nielanell, photographer Austin Taylor Photography
Fav yarn or textile: Nothing in the world compares to a beautiful fine Shetland fleece to prepare and spin.
Elaine Nicolson University of the Highlands and Islands 2017 graduate, BA Contemporary Textiles. Self employed knit wear designer.
Wooly Info: This is one of my favourite textiles which was part of my degree work. This design was inspired from a hand knit heritage piece. It was knitted on a 12 gauge machine in white merino wool and silk in the colours of beach pebbles.
Fav yarn or textile: Wool, blended with silk for a great fibre combination.
Edina Szeles Lecturer of Contemporary Textiles, Art and Woven Structures at Shetland College UHI, Programme Leader of the portfolio course. In her third year of teaching a weaving workshop during Shetland Wool Week
Wooly Info: My first wool experience was at 16. I had to weave a rug in the art high school I studied in Budapest, Hungary. My first wool experience on Shetland was in 2012, using Jamieson & Smith heritage yarns to create woven fabrics for the GlobalYell weave studio. I worked in the textile industry for over 10 years, designing both for printed and woven textiles before moving into teaching art in 2006. I also maintain an independent art practice creating contemporary art and design pieces.
Fav yarn or textile: Love all! I enjoy finding different ways to use them, primarily for weaving but also for hand-dying, spinning, knitting, felting and embroidery. In recent years I have been working mainly with wool – what else if you live in Shetland!
Are you familiar with the 1919 Scottish Land Settlement Act?
If your answer is no, you are not alone. Despite its wide-reaching significance, it is felt to be neither as well-known nor as celebrated as other key pieces of land legislation, such as the 1886 Crofters’ Act and the 2003 Land Reform (Scotland) Act.
Is this about to change?
Dr Iain Robertson, Reader at the University of the Highlands and Islands Centre for History, is working with colleagues at the Centre for Scotland’s Land Futures and the Historical Geography Research Group to make sure the Act’s existence and current relevance is recognised as it becomes a centenarian.
Here, Iain highlights two of over 400 events of land disturbances that took place in the Highlands and Islands after November 1918 which were to drive the British Government into passing the 1919 Land Settlement Act one hundred years ago.
A celebratory 1919 Land Settlement (Scotland) Act conference will take place between the 26 and 28 September 2019 at Kinloch on the Isle of Lewis.
Just a short ferry ride from the Isle of Skye is the beautiful small island of Raasay.
When the Raasay raiders were due to be arrested they were always forewarned that the police were on their way. So they would “leave their houses and they went on the hills … There was an uncle of mine … and one of the policeman spotted him and he made after him and … he would say to the police “you needn’t come further you’ll never catch me and even if you did I wouldn’t go on that boat … I would put my foot through it” he says “and sink the Boat. “You would be drowned yourself” says the policeman “Not at all” he says “I was in the Navy I would swim the Channel.”
From that day onwards the hill where the raiders hid was known as a cnoc a phoileasmain (‘the hillock of the policeman’).
Resettling on North Uist
In March 1920 crofters on North Uist wrote to the Scottish Office threatening to seize land at Balranald, now a stunning Hebridean nature reserve.
They claimed that the land: “adjoins the township and formerly belonged to it. We are convinced that we are acting right when we take possession of the land from which our ancestors were wrongfully driven.”
Since the 1880s successive governments had attempted to solve ‘the Highland land problem’ through a combination of the carrot and stick: gunboats, marines and legislation. This had not worked. Whatever they tried, from the Crofters Act onwards, no government was able to address land hunger amongst the landless.
In 1911, however, the Government passed the Small Landholders Act. For the first time the Board of Agriculture had the ability to compel the creation of smallholding schemes on private estates. Unfortunately, this piece of legislation was flawed and there was not enough money to keep up with the demand for land. The disturbances continued until the intervention of international conflict, the First World War.
War changed much. Both in the Highlands and Islands and beyond. Sympathy for the sacrifices made by Highland families was translated into sympathy for the plight of those who returned home to exactly the same appalling conditions they had left to serve. They were instead expecting to return to a ‘land fit for heroes’.
But war changes people. Ex-soldiers and sailors returned home “no longer content to put up with what our forefathers did.” A new wave of land disturbances erupted almost immediately after November 1918, with the government feeling compelled to respond. The 1919 Land Settlement Act was born – the most important piece of land legislation since 1886.
More money was found and the process of land settlement simplified. Hundreds of new crofts were created, with long-abandoned townships brought back to life and others revived. The Act transformed the Highlands and Islands landscape. In giving folks the opportunity to remain on the land that would have been otherwise impossible, the Act created the conditions out of which the land buyout movement would emerge some eighty years later.
This is the legacy of the Land Settlement Act and why we must celebrate it.
[i] Full details of the Raasay and Balranald land raids can be found in Iain JM Robertson, Landscapes of Protest in the Scottish Highlands After 1914: The later Highland land wars. Routledge, 2016.
Your exam results have at last arrived. You have your results. What now?
Do I need to use the clearing system?
The clearing system is your route to find a suitable course at university or college if you;
don’t already have a place or an offer that you want to accept
didn’t meet the conditions of your offer
did better than anticipated
no longer wish to accept an existing offer
are applying after the 30 June
Clearing is notnecessary if you have used the UCAS application system to apply before the 30 June; have been made an active offer from a university and have met the conditions made in the offer and you wish to accept it. Do remember to check the acceptance process to make sure that your place is secured.
Want more information? Speak to an adviser at the University of the Highlands and Islands on 01463 279190 or visit our website
UCAS also offer a clearing advice line to candidates: 0371 368 0468 (UK callers) or +44 330 333 0230 (if you are calling from outside the UK).
How do I find out which courses have places available?
Whether you know exactly what you’d like to do or you’re still unsure, there is help available to support you to find the right course.
Do some research. Find courses that interest you.
ask for help and information about which of our courses are available and what qualifications are needed for entry. Contact our clearing information line on 01463 279190 or visit our website
contact the Skills Development Scotland’s exam helpline which offers advice on careers and university and college vacancies. The helpline is open from 8am–8pm on 9 and 10 August and 9am–5pm until 17 August. Call 0808 100 8000.
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